That may not seem like a big deal, but it is when you consider that i have yet to exhaust my Southeast Asian destinations since moving to Singapore in November 2009. For example, I have yet to make a return trip to either Vietnam or Cambodia. So why do I keep going back to Bangkok?
For sure there are practical reasons, such as flight schedules and costs. But one can also use those same arguments for, say Bali (which I’ve been to twice) or Kuala Lumpur (once before moving to Singapore, and only once after the move). There must be other reasons for revisiting the city. Here are some of them.
1. Alcohol is Cheap
Alcohol is heavily taxed here in Singapore (based on information here, S$3.50 of import duty would have to be paid per liter of 5% beer, while S$28 of import duty would have to be paid per liter of 40% vodka), so drinks tend to be on the expensive side. In contrast, Thailand is generally a hedonist’s (or alcoholic’s) paradise, with alcohol sold on the cheap. Plus compared to other Southeast Asian nations, Thailand’s cheap beers (Chang and Leo) are (arguably) pretty good. A shallow reason, perhaps, but sometimes one wants to get sloshed without breaking the bank, y’know?
2. Bangkok’s Got Grit
Let’s be honest: Almost every other major city in the region is “grittier” than Singapore. On the downside, that means more traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian), more people (locals and tourists alike), and a more hectic public transport system (Jakarta doesn’t even have a metro). Bangkok can also be sleazier than Singapore, with (fake) Viagra peddled on the streets, as well as ladyboys openly grabbing men’s crotches on Khao San Road. But all of that is part of the fun. Singapore’s cleanliness and order are great when it comes to daily life, but if you just wanna let loose and go a bit crazy, then Bangkok is great for that.
3. There’s So Much to See and Do
After four trips to the city, I’ve yet to exhaust all that there is to do. I did most of the major tourist spots (like the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho) on my first trip there. For my second go, I tried the nightlife, watched a tennis tournament, and visited nearby Ayutthaya. On my third trip, I visited the Arab district and smoked some shisha. During my last trip, I experienced Songkran, shopped at MBK, and saw the newly-opened Madame Tussaud’s. (And yes, I’ve seen a ping pong show, and no, I don’t ever wanna see one again.) I still have a few tourist things I can do for this short trip (like Jim Thompson’s House or Wat Arun), and I’m pretty sure I won’t be running out of things to do in Bangkok anytime soon.
4. Thai Food is HOT
I’ve always liked Thai food, but I fell in love with it when I tried some authentic off-the-streets Thai food during my first visit to Bangkok. Thanks to Migrationology Mark, I had a greater appreciation of what Thai food eaten by locals actually tastes like. A cooking course I took in the town of Pai in northern Thailand also helped me learn more about what makes Thai cuisine special. Although there are places in Singapore to get authentic Thai food, nothing beats having it at the source.
5. In a Word: Friends
I’ve made quite a few friends on my previous trips to Bangkok, from former CouchSurfing hosts to people I’d met here in Singapore. Also, because it’s quite a popular tourist and backpacker destination, a lot of travelers I’ve met and CouchSurfers I’ve hosted end up at least passing through the city. It definitely adds a more personal dimension to my trips to Bangkok. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on people I very rarely see face-to-face. Besides, it’s more fun to get sloshed on cheap alcohol when you’re doing it with friends! (See: The Hangover, Part 2.)